Tuesday, July 1, 2014 by Jacqueline Savage | Practice
Published: Jan 31, 2014 | Category: Practice
As a parent I am always questioning whether or not I am pushing too hard for my step son Alex to practice. He has definitely gone through his ups and downs with the piano as he goes into his 4th year of playing. The big question is, “Does he enjoy playing?” I sense the answer is yes when he is genuinely proud of himself as he performs for family and friends and during recitals. I can also tell he enjoys it as he sits down and plays when I don’t ask him to! The balancing act is how much to have him practice without making him hate “practice time”. With Alex we plan the days he is going to practice during his lesson (I do try this with some of my other students) which usually consists of 3-4 days depending on the week. We don’t talk about how long he is going to practice, only that he will play his technique first and each assigned song 2 times through. I also give him vacations off from practice when our family is on vacation and give him some time in the summer off. (Not the whole summer.) When on vacation I always bring his books so he has the opportunity to play the songs he enjoys! Not every child is going to benefit from a practice routine like this, but it is a good place to start.
I guess the question is how to keep your child motivated to practice? How do you keep them excited to play? I know in my heart that Alex will be thankful to have this skill, this outlet in life, and that is why sometimes I push him to practice when he doesn’t want to. Some motivational tools I use are always talking about music when it comes up in our daily lives. When we hear music on the radio I ask questions such as “What do you like about this song?” “What instruments do you hear?” “What time period do you think this is from?” We listen to many different radio stations and cds ranging from classical music to popular music. I take him to musical events and play for him often. He is also exposed to music by being in the youth choir at our church and hearing me play during the service and also is involved in music at school. It is a proven fact that music helps kids in other areas in school so events like these are great learning opportunities and a great way to spend time with the family!
The other important factor to practice is routine. This is going to be different for every child. With Alex I have to keep up with his weekly lessons (which can be a challenge). He also needs to be actively involved in group classes, recitals, playing for family and friends, practice, playing “fun” songs, learning about music theory and history, and just being as involved as possible! And also sticking to a practice schedule whether he likes it or not.
Usually not wanting to practice has nothing to do with disliking the piano. Learning to play is hard. There are ups and downs and highs and lows. That is why not everyone plays! But my job as a teacher is to not allow kids to give up until they have exhausted all other options!
Piano study for a child is as much a job for parents as it is for the kids. We have to keep them motivated to practice and keep them going even when they feel like they want to give up! We have to keep asking questions and pushing them to succeed! Please talk to me if you feel like your child wants to “give up” on the piano. Sometimes I have no idea they are feeling overwhelmed and if I don’t know I can’t make changes. Sometimes all a child needs is a different strategy, or a new song, maybe a new practice technique, to keep them going! Just remember that the kids need YOU in order to be successful! ?